The Immediate & Long-term Effects Of Klonopin Abuse

How Bad Is Klonopin for You?

Klonopin, or clonazepam, is a benzodiazepine drug and central nervous system depressant.1 It is generally prescribed to treat seizures and panic disorders.2
How Bad Is Klonopin for You?

Klonopin can have short-term therapeutic benefits when taken as prescribed. In general, long-term use is not advised because of the high risk for developing tolerance, dependence, and addiction.1

It is dangerous to use Klonopin without a prescription from a physician. People who abuse the drug without a prescription, or have a prescription but abuse it, may be at risk of addiction and health risks. Combining the medication with prescription pain medicines, over-the-counter cold and allergy medications, alcohol, and other sedatives can lead to overdose and possibly death.3

Addiction to Klonopin can lead to problems with relationships, employment, and both mental and physical health.4

Immediate Effects

Benzodiazepines like Klonopin interact with the GABA receptor—a protein complex on the surface of certain brain cells—and, in doing so, increase the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA at that receptor. The result is a relaxing or calming effect that can help ease insomnia or anxiety.3 This rewarding, calm feeling is why some people begin to misuse their Klonopin.

Other short-term effects of Klonopin use include but are not limited to:2,3

  • Drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Disorientation.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Shallow breathing.
  • Problems concentrating.

Long-Term Effects

Long-term effects of Klonopin use include but are not limited to:4,5,6

  • Memory loss.
  • Cognitive problems.
  • Weakness.
  • Increased risk of falls, hip fracture, and car crashes.
  • Overdose.

In particular, benzodiazepines such as Klonopin can impair the brain’s ability to record and adapt to new information, which can impair learning.7

As mentioned above, long-term use also can lead to escalating tolerance, severe physiological dependence, and addiction.

Tolerance

Tolerance occurs when the person no longer responds to the drug in the same manner they initially responded. In other words, it takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same effects achieved before. The development of tolerance is not addiction, although many drugs that cause tolerance are addictive.8

Regular Klonopin use may lead to tolerance,4 and taking higher doses increases the risk of addiction.

Dependence

Dependence can develop when Klonopin is used for an extended period of time. The brain gets used to receiving an outside substance that increases GABA’s inhibitory signaling activity. Once dependence occurs, and Klonopin levels drop, the central nervous system of the user is more prone to a state of abnormally high arousal and excitation, which can result in rebound restlessness, anxiety, and agitation. This mechanism underlies many of the potentially severe acute benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.

Woman stressed out
Someone who is physically dependent on Klonopin may continue to use the drug to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which occur when the user attempts to stop use. The user can get caught in a vicious cycle, unable to stop completely.

Dependence is one sign that addiction may be present. But physical dependence and addiction do not necessarily occur together.9 Someone who is addicted will continue to use the drug despite problems in their life, such as poor health or relationship strain.

Someone who takes the drug as prescribed and develops dependence may need to be slowly tapered off under a doctor’s supervision.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms can occur within a week of initially stopping or reducing use, usually peak within the first week, and begin to fade approximately 3-4 weeks after the last ingestion of the drug.4

Often, users unaware of the withdrawal risks will attempt to quit on their own. This could prove dangerous, as the risks of withdrawal from Klonopin can be moderate to severe, ranging from anxiety to seizures to death, if not handled properly.4 For this reason, a medically monitored detox or rehab facility is recommended to help monitor for and minimize complications from withdrawal.

Signs and symptoms of Klonopin withdrawal include but are not limited to:4

  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety.
  • Sweating.
  • Tremors.
  • High pulse rate.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Seizures.

Some factors that may affect the intensity of Klonopin withdrawal include: 

  • Severity of dependence or addiction.
  • Amount of use.
  • Length of use.
  • Co-occurring mental health/medical conditions.
  • Concurrent abuse of other drugs.

Craving

Cravings may occur when the user attempts to quit taking Klonopin, which may indicate a dependency and/or addiction to the substance. Cravings can be physical or psychological, and are usually a combination of both. They may continue for a varied period of time, and users will feel them to different degrees.

How Addiction Changes Your Life

Addiction can have devastating physical, emotional, and psychological effects on your life. Some negative consequences of Klonopin addiction include:4,10

  • Strained relationships.
  • Job loss.
  • Depression and difficulty tolerating emotions and stress.
  • Financial and legal issues.
  • Time wasted on getting, finding, and using drugs.

Many people who develop an addiction have a hard time quitting without professional help.

Addiction and Mental Health

It’s quite common for people to struggle with mental health conditions such as anxiety and addiction. In 2014, 7.9 million adults had a substance use disorder (also known as an addiction) and another mental health issue.  Having a substance use disorder and a mental health condition at the same time is known as comorbidity.11   Those with comorbidity, also known as dual diagnosis, should seek treatment programs that are equipped to deal with both issues.

Man talking to doctor
People who have anxiety disorders and become addicted to Klonopin may need to seek alternative methods to reduce stress and anxiety. These people may find mindfulness-based programs and holistic interventions such as yoga helpful. Both inpatient and outpatient recovery programs may offer services that provide these types of tools.

Many programs also address underlying issues related to addiction such as self-esteem. Individuals may learn coping skills, eliminate addictive patterns and thinking, and improve their overall health and well-being. Most rehab programs are 30, 60, or 90 days or longer. But the amount of time a person spends in treatment often depends on their treatment goals, what their insurance will or will not cover, or what they can personally afford.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Klonopin abuse, our support specialists can provide information and resources to get you the help you need. We are available 24/7 to assist you.

Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Which classes of prescription drugs are commonly misused?
  2. PubMed Health. (2018). Clonazepam (Oral route).
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2017). Prescription Depressant Medications.
  4. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
  5. Johnson, B., and Streltzer, J. (2013). Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use. American Family Physician, 88(4), 224-225.
  6. University of Maryland Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Benzodiazepines.
  7. Kuhn, C., Swartzwelder, S., and Wilson, W. (2014). Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2007). Definition of tolerance.
  9. Odegaard, S., Peller, A., Shaffer, H. (2005). Addiction as syndrome. Paradigm.
  10. Longo, L., and Johnson, B. (2000). Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines—Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives. American Family Physician, 61(7), 2121-2128.
  11. National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Substance Use and Mental Health.